In the event that you have a kitten who was taken from the mother too soon, kittens who have lost their mother, or a mamma cat who is unable to nurse – Bottle feeding them may be your only option to ensure they survive. When it comes to bottle feeding a kitten, it isn’t much different from feeding a baby. You have to be careful, feed when they ask, and use the right kind of nipple! Ooookay then, maybe that was a bad choice of words! If you are interested in learning how to bottle feed your kitten, continue reading!
What you will need
- Hypoallergenic Baby Wipes/Warm Damp Cloth
- Kitten Formula (KMR Powder is recommended)
- A Kitten Bottle
- A Syringe (NO NEEDLE!)
- Clean Glass Jar w/Lid
To begin, you will want to mix the formula according to the label. Mixing the formula in a clean glass jar makes this easy. Put the formula with the water inside the jar, seal the lid tightly, and shake! Remove the lid and give it a few whisks to make sure there are no clumps and put it aside. You will want to make a decent amount if you have more than one kitten. It can be stored in the fridge for a few days and warmed in a pot of hot water when ready to feed again. Be sure to always store unused formula in the fridge to keep it from spoiling or growing bacteria!
Next you will want to prepare the nipple on the bottle. Take the top off and rinse clean with hot water (NEVER use soap!) and put the container to the side. Take the nipple and make a small X in the tip using scissors. It is very important not to make a large hole or leave a tiny one. The kitten can choke on too much formula and too tight of a nipple flow can cause the kitten to swallow air, which is not a good thing. If the bottle comes as a kit (as seen to the right) be sure to use the appropriate nipple for kittens. You can also find the bottle with just one nipple and it is labeled for kittens.
Take the formula, making sure it is warm, and use the syringe to fill the bottle. Give it a few shakes and get your kitten(s) ready. Once they taste it they will know it is food and will start crying for more. You will want to feed the kitten till it is full. It will let you know by backing away from the nipple. Feeding times vary for different kittens but most will want to be fed every 3 to 6 hours depending on appetite, amount they eat in one sitting, and age.
When you are feeding the kitten, you will want to hold them properly. Allow the kitten to be upright and loosely grasp the kittens chest right under the neck line with the opposite feeding hand. Allow the kitten to be slightly looking up. This aids in feeding and digestion. The kitten shouldn’t be struggling in this position. NEVER feed the kitten like human on its back. It needs to be upright. Being on its back can cause gas to build up in the intestines. Remember you are replacing the mother, they are not replacing a human baby. When the kitten is done, gently stoke the back a few times to aid in the digestion. Think of your fingers as the mother’s tongue. Be gentle but firm. Do this in the direction of the rear. If you have a squirmy kitten, you can wrap them in a towel while feeding but just remember to keep them upright.
After feeding, wipes will come in handy! Be sure to clean all of the formula off of the kittens fur so it does not cause a rash or balding. You may also use a warm damp clothe to clean them as well. Which ever you prefer. Baby wipes are just more convenient, trust me.
If you have trouble with poop, and you find the kittens being covered in their own waste, you may want to opt for damp bathing as well. The best room to do this in is usually the bathroom. You can easily control the temperature to keep it warm. You simply place the kitten in a shallow sink or tub (I used the bathroom sink) and wet the kitten with a cup of warm water, then use a wet wash-cloth to wipe away the poo. You will want to wash the kitten as fast and as gentle as possible. Make sure it is completely dry before leaving the bathroom. Do not use soap until the kitten is at least 6 weeks old and use baby wash when you do. I used J&J’s Bedtime Bath (Lavender) which helps calm them and eases stress associated with bathing.
Using a nesting box is the easiest way to set a feeding schedule. Use something that is large enough for the kittens to move around in and tall enough where they can’t get out, yet small enough to keep body heat. Line the bottom with a plastic bag and place towels or soft blankets over the bag. The bag is there for urine and runny poop. You can have them come out and play but when they start to fall asleep, place them in the nesting box (if you have more than one, always keep them together). Loosely cover the nesting box with a towel or blanket, leaving a small peaking space in one of the corners. They will sleep until they become hungry again. You will know when they alert you with tiny mews!
I hope this has helped you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I have bottle fed a number of kittens, including three 3-week old kittens that lost their mother and Twiggy, who was taken from his mother too soon.